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Kim McDougall Author

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Arachnids of Unusual Size

This is a deleted scene from book 2, Dervishes Don’t Dance. Kyra and Mason are lost in an underground passage once used for smuggling. They are looking for a creature that murdered several construction workers above ground. But they come across something else…

The spider hung on the cement wall above me. 

I slashed upward and my knife glanced off a hard shell. Mason made a fist and turned his hand to stone. He punched it but the beast skittered backward just out of reach and his stone fist struck the wall, chipping off a flake of old cement.

“Tabernak,” he swore and then pulled us both backward. The gleam threw odd shadows from somewhere down the tunnel. The sharp light did nothing to improve the monster looming like a nightmare above us.

Bigger than a house cat, its black segmented eyes stared from a nightmare face. A stubby tail rose up behind it and shook like a rattle. It opened a mouth as wide as a dinner plate and brandished long feelers, as if tasting the air we breathed. Two pinchers flanked the mouth. I dropped my knife and unsheathed my sword.

Even as my mind registered the danger of venom in those pinchers, the spider jumped again. 

My sword struck and slid off the hard carapace. The creature hit the wall next to Mason. He slammed a knife into the rock and managed to slice off the tip of one leg. The spider hissed a fog of spit and backed up.

“Don’t breathe that in!” I yelled. I had no idea if it was poisonous.

“What the hells is it?” Mason circled left. The spider spread that monstrous mouth again and followed his movement with feelers.

“Don’t know,” I said. “Definitely not natural.” With all the magic bouncing around down here, it could have been a manifestation, maybe a creature brought through a tiny tear in dimensions. Those happened all the time during the war. This creature could easily have evolved down here in the dark since then with magic as its succor. 

The spider leapt. I swung my sword like a bat and smacked it into the cement wall. It fell to the floor, but scampered back up the wall with only the slightest hesitation.

“How do we stop it?” asked Mason. “Blades are no good.”

“No, but here. Keep it busy.” I tossed him my sword. 

Let’s see if the old man can play baseball.

The spider leaped and Mason swung and would have hit it out of the park, if the park didn’t consist of four very solid walls. 

While Mason pushed the beast forward in a constant dance of lunge and parry, I scrambled in my pack. 

Where is it? Where is it? 

My hands ran over all the stuff crammed into the back until I came across one small spray bottle. 

“Got it! Hold him there.” Mason pressed the sword against the spider’s leg, pinning it. 

I shook the bottle and released a fog into the spider’s face. It screamed and shook. Mason leaned into the sword.

“Isn’t that stuff going to kill you too?” he asked, not seeming to care about his own health.

“Perfectly safe,” I said, through the noxious cloud. “A formula of my own.” I just hoped that this beast was arachnid enough to react like it should. The spider writhed and shrieked, spraying the air with secretions. Gods, I hoped that wasn’t poisonous. I shoved the bottle down its throat and pressed the trigger. It jerked again and went still. Desiccated from the inside out.

Mason dropped his arm and the spider fell to the floor. 

“I thought you didn’t kill critters,” he said. 

I shrugged. “Some things just need to die.” He turned to hand me my sword and froze.

“Kyra, I think we’re going to need a bigger spray can.”

Following his gaze, I turned. Eight gigantic black eyes stared at us. 

Mama had come home and she wasn’t happy that we’d killed her baby.

Easily the size of a cow, the spider grasped the rough wall near the ceiling with eight legs covered in razor-sharp chiton. Dozens of tentacles quivered around an open toothless mouth. Two pinchers, big enough to grab my head, clacked excitedly. 

It fell on us. My sword clanged against the hard shell, blocking the attack. My arm shook with strain. Pinchers snapped inches from my face. My arm shook with the strain of holding it back. I shoved, giving myself the fraction of a second to plunge my sword in the gaping mouth. The pinchers clamped onto my blade, and the black head whipped sideways, tearing the sword from my grip. I fell backward. Pain exploded through my hip as I hit rock.

The spider skittered across the floor toward me, pinchers clacking, clacking, clacking. The noise struck a core of fear in the primitive part of my brain as I tried to scramble away.

Mason leaped and punched the beast in the face with his stone arm. The spider didn’t flinch. Mandibles clamped onto his arm and he roared, in pain or fear, I couldn’t tell.

“No!” I scooted backward, desperate for my sword. I groped the floor, scraping my hand painfully on broken cement, tearing nails and skin. My bloody fingers found the sword’s grip. I scrabbled forward, swinging awkwardly and struck stone with a nerve-seizing clang. 

Mama’s tail was more developed than the baby’s. It ended in a sharp point that she used to stab at me. I ducked and the tail swished by my head. I swung again and lopped off the tip. The spider shrieked and thrashed, but didn’t let go of Mason. He punched, striking it in the face, but it hung on. 

I jabbed, aiming for the eye and missed. 

Mason grunted. The beast still clenched his arm. Dark blood splashed his face as the spider waved its severed tail.  

Mason pushed. The massive beast shifted an inch. He shoved again. Eight legs grated on stone as the beast tried to hold on.

“Help me…” He strained. Another foot backward. “…the doors.” 

Behind the beast, two doors opened to an old storage room.

Oh, gods. It would bite his arm off before we reached that.

I jabbed with my sword, trying to herd it backwards. The uneven ground tripped me. I twisted an ankle, barely noticing the hot pain. I slashed at the spider’s legs, the only vulnerable spot on its chitinous body. It flinched. Mason shoved. We moved backward another foot. I sliced at the tentacles waving about its face. My sword blurred as I cut, slashed and jabbed. The spider whined, an eerie noise that set my teeth on edge. Mason dug in his heels and slowly, we gained ground. 

The spider inched through the double doors and I ran to close them. Debris blocked one side open. While Mason hissed through the pain, I kicked at old paint cans and discarded tools blocking the door, then slammed one side shut. Mason shoved and I closed the other side as much as I could without breaking his arm.
“Cut…the…mandible…” said Mason through gritted teeth. They faced off, only inches apart, the spider clamped onto his forearm. 

I swung with everything I had. My blade smashed on the pinchers, inches from where they clung to Mason’s arm. It glanced off, barely making a scratch. 

Mason’ face was streaked with sweat. The spider jerked sideways, trying to tear his arm off. He screamed a primal cry of agony and anger.

No!  

Magic simmered somewhere deep in my gut. I pulled from this well, stretching power along my arm and feeding my sword. The blade hummed in my grip. I struck with every bit of rage and desperation in me. My sword spiked white hot and sheared through the mandibles like a sharp knife through melon. 
Mason kicked the beast backward. It fell, shrieking as it hit the back side of the storage room. Mason slammed the door and held it closed. The spider banged against it. 

“Got anything in that pack to hold it?” he asked.

I dropped my bag and searched furiously while the beast rattled its cage. My hand wrapped around a roll of duct tape. Perfect. I wrapped the door handles, using half a roll of tape. 

I stood back to inspect my handiwork. “Duct tape: confining your enemies since 1945.” I grinned, even though my legs felt like wet noodles and my heart thudded against my ribs.

The beast slammed against the doors again.

“That won’t hold it for long,” Mason said. 

“Long enough for us to get back up top. Then it’s Hub’s problem.”

“Agreed.” Mason’s arm, now soft flesh again, circled my shoulder and together we limped out into the night.